Concursive Corporation

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What open means to me

Posted by David Richards on March 26, 2009, 11:50 AM EDT
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Open means different things to different stakeholders.  What it means to me.

In the "Open Source Software" (OSS) movement, of which we've been a part for many years, the precise meaning and use of that term is richly and passionately debated.  The protaganists range from the dogmatic to the rational.  I'd like to think we're more in the latter camp.  Some might consider us in the former.

Regardless, the debate around OSS and what it is or isn't obscures a broader, more fundamental framework that is increasingly vital to maintaining a healthy enterprise.  And that is, it's better to consider OSS within the context of how an organization uses technology to advance an "Open Innvoation" (OI) strategy.  OSS is about software.  OI is about competitive positioning... shareholder value... changing markets.... it's about the overall mission that drives the enterprise.  

I'm not going to try and explain in this post what I mean by an Open Innovation strategy; I believe you all have some sense of what it embraces in a general sense for your organization -- if you don't, Ugh!  Rather, I'm going to touch on four dynamics I believe are important to an OI initiative from a technology perspective.

  1. Open Source Software
  2. Open Standards
  3. The "Cloud"
  4. Open Participation


1.  Open Source Software:  OSS can and should be a key part of an OI strategy.  If you're not using it you're missing out on a lot.  Not just because there is great software you can use (did I mention it comes FREE in many versions) but as much because of the underlying ethos of OSS.  OSS beliefs and values are ones you want to bleed into your enterprise.  They encompass concepts like collaboration, meritocracy, sharing, and individual initiative.  The best OSS projects are driven by these and what organization doesn't need more of them.

2. Open Standards:  There are great non-OSS technologies. Increasingly, however it's hard to find any that don't embrace an open standards or open architecture approach. While it often takes successful, proprietary technologies time before they open themselves up, they all do.  Some from competitive pressures, others for expanded opportunities. It doesn't matter why, it just matters that they begin making themselves open to others.  Interestingly -- and maybe this is the topic of another blog -- my experience is that often the least, open-standards based initiatives are in-house development projects.  Which I find odd.  Not sure why this might be but perhaps it's because in-house teams are often smaller, experienced with and/or biased to a certain class of tools.  Therefore they often go forth without fully appreciating broader issues, opportunities and pitfalls.

3.  The "Cloud":  Lots and lots of stuff is moving to the Cloud. And the Cloud of today is a bit like the Internet of the mid-90's; it meant something different to everybody, yet we all knew it was important.  Computing applications are heading there, infrastructure is there, and increasingly services are moving there.  So an enterprise's Open Innovation strategy that isn't figuring out how to leverage the Cloud is leaving value and opportunity on the table.  Paradoxically, the challenge seems greatest for large organizations; their existing infrastructure, policies and procedures often don't make it easy to take advantage of it.  One for the little guys   :)

4.  Open Participation:  If there's one dynamic of an Open Innovation strategy that has perhaps advanced the fastest in the recent future it's the ability to involve more and more people.  And not just employees.  It's customers, vendors, partners, board members, analysts, even dogmatic, way-out-there pundits.  Maybe even your enemies.  Uuuuuuu...!  If your innovation strategies aren't explicity and aggressively figuring out this angle, you can rest assured at least some of your competitors are.  Maybe not all of them, but a few.  Those that figure it out the best will have a clear leg up.

So here's the blatant, in-your-face, no holds barred, patently commercial part of my blog-pitch [Note: Isn't every blog a pitch, if not for commercial gain then for vanity, charitable or some other gain, and in some cases all of the above]  If you're a large or small company, aggressively interested in driving Open Innovation, we want to speak with you; our 5-million or so lines of code and years of gray hair have optimized us for helping you.  If you want/need to stay on the sidelines, that's fine too.  Come back whenever and just join the community.

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